Behind the scenes at Iittala

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Kaasa candleholder designed by Ilkka Suppanen in 2015

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ongtime readers of this blog may know that I love a good factory visit. I previously visited the Farrow & Ball factory, and had the chance to visit another truly inspiring company earlier this year when I was invited to take a peek behind the scenes at one of my favorite interior brands Iittala! Before the factory tour we learned a lot about Finland’s design icons who often worked closely with Iittala, like Alvar and Aina Aalto, Tapio Wirkkala and Kaj Frank, and then we got to see how these designs were actually made, brought to life by the skilled craftsmen and women at the factory.

Here you can witness the production of glass artefacts, as the artisans create glasses, plates, and vases as well as Oiva Toikka birds from molten glass. And I must say, watching these men and women at work is almost like a meditation. They are so focussed on the job, and they have to be, because the material they are handling is piping hot. The way they behave themselves is almost like visual poetry. Calming and soothing, or that’s the way they make it look.

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Kastelhelmi plate, designed by Oiva Toikka in 1964

So I thought I’d share some striking facts from our visit here, as well as some images I’ve created to celebrate the beauty of some of the design objects. Here we go!

5 things you didn’t know about Iittala:

 

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1. It takes seven people to make one Savoy vase (a.k.a aalto vase). Among the many steps are blowing the glass into a mold and cooling it in an annealing kiln.

2. There’s a little bit of Belgium in the Iittala products: the sand in the glass is from Maasmechelen!

 

3.The brand goes back to 1881 when a glass factory was founded in the village of Iittala. Since then they have worked with the best names in Finnish design.
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4. The wooden molds can be used 30 times, the iron molds have no limits. When wooden molds are used, it adds an interesting texture to the glass, as you can see here.

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5. The material the glassblowers are handling is a piping hot 1100 degrees celcius.

Check out this wonderful video below that takes you behind the scenes!

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Ultima Thule, designed by Tapio Wirkkala in 1968

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Alvar Aalto vase designed by Alvar Aalto in 1936